Written by Jenn
It’s been a fantastic Christmas for our family here in Southern France. The weather has been a peaceful blue-skied brilliance so fitting for our first Christmas in Agde. We celebrated with bursting spirits (and stomachs) with an English Feast, watched our three older children sing (Peter played his guitar) in their Concert de Noël, enjoyed the Marché de Noël in the Old Town, celebrated baby Jesus’ birth at the Christmas Eve mass at the Cathedral, then indulged ourselves at a French Christmas Eve dinner party. We had a joyful Christmas day at home with the children opening their presents in the morning, and shared in a delicious meal as a family. Our second Christmas away from our home town has been very good. Not as exciting or magical as our first Christmas away in Rome and Vatican City last year, but a special one filled with joy in celebrating with new friends. Life is good!
Our English Christmas Feast
Our Christmas celebrations began a week earlier when Diana and Mike (our wonderful British landlords) treated us to an abundant spread of cheer with their traditional English Christmas feast. Diana knocked our socks off with the most delicious Christmas spread. The food was AMAZING!
You could tell Di enjoyed planning out this feast. We were grateful to have the opportunity to take part in such a generous meal. I think the icing on the cake was eating the leftovers two days in a row after the big feast. Brian and I were pretty impressed, especially when Diana typed out the menu for us. As you can see below, some French items were included, along with some North American (which I helped by baking the apple pie) influences to cater to the guests. Diana thought of everything!
Appetizers served with fresh baguettes
Foie Gras de Canard
Tampenade a Tomate et Basilic
Terrine de Filet de Saumon
Roast Capon (castrated rooster – our first taste: so good!)
Fresh Sage and Onion Stuffing
Pigs in a Blanket
Roast Honeyed Parsnips
Carrots with raisins and walnuts
Homemade Minced Pies
Apple Pie ‘a la Canadien’
Jello with Whipped Cream (I made this for our French friends. There’s no Jello in France)
We enjoyed a glass of champagne with our appetizers. There was also some salad greens, and cheese plates, along with unopened chocolates available. Although, we were all happily in a state of food coma by the time we could even think about chocolates.
Children’s École de Musique Christmas Concert
Our kids (Susan, Peter, and Lucy) took part in the École de Musique’s Concert de Noël. They sang five gorgeous songs in harmony along with a mixed orchestra of teachers and students playing instruments. One of the numbers was a lovely African three canon song, and our Peter was one of the two students who played his guitar. They even sang an English song, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho”. It was all very well done, and you could tell that a lot of hard work and passion went into the entire production. As I watched all the talent on stage, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly fortunate we were to live in France and be a part of this musical extravaganza. I’m grateful our kids had the opportunity to be a part of it all.
Marché de Noël
Experiencing Agde during the Christmas season was an adventure for us. We savoured the small town charm of the holidays through their local Christmas Market. There were plenty of things to feast our eyes on, and certainly a lot of fun child-centered activities made available to spread the French Christmas Spirit.
There was live music and friendly dressed-up characters who were picture ready for the children.
Face Painting by Ornette the Clown.
Père Noël (Santa) and his ponies.
A Christmas Children’s Fair with rides and games.
On Christmas Eve we went to church at La Cathédrale Sainte-Étienne and witnessed the best Nativity pageant we’ve ever seen. Children were dressed up in shepherd, angel and animal costumes. Mary came into the church on a very well behaved white donkey. A live goat and bleating baby sheep (carried in by a child dressed in a shepherd costume) were even part of the procession. I was kicking myself for forgetting my camera, as we were in perfect view of the entire pageant. The atmosphere was joyful and reverent, so full of the Christmas Spirit, and a wonderful reminder of why we celebrate Christmas. In the end, the priest led the way to the Nativity scene at the back of the church and placed the little porcelain baby Jesus in the manger.
After church, we arrived hungry to partake in a Christmas French Course meal at our friends’ lovely home. Delphine and Fred were such gracious hosts and entertained us with a fantastic and beautifully set Christmas dinner. We enjoyed the company of Fred’s sister Annie and nephew Théo as well, and felt so fotunate to be showered by such great hospitality.
The children enjoyed their own table together and happily entertained eachother while the adults visited.
Christmas day was peaceful. The children woke up quietly and opened their presents after a breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit in the morning, and spent the rest of the day enjoying their gifts. It was nice to take the time to enjoy each other’s company, keeping the vibe relaxed and joyful. Our Christmas supper included french pork rounds and oven baked foie gras, accompanied by a delicious Moroccan chickpea apricot soup with vegetables. For dessert we ate Diana’s Christmas pudding, steamed on the stove, and topped with French vanilla ice cream. We sang a Happy Birthday song to Jesus.
Christmas in Agde was better than we expected.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Love from the Smeenk Family